This week, Sony revealed the design of its new PlayStation VR2 headset. Fortunately, it became common practice for the company, like Apple, to discuss what their designers were looking for.
The shape of the helmet is not pure form follows function; instead, the designers wanted to put some poetry into them, as well as make sure they felt like a whole with the other components of the system. “You’ll notice that the PS VR2 headset has a similar shape to the PS VR2 Sense controller, taking on a matching ‘orb’ appearance,” the company writes. “The circular shape of the orb represents the 360-degree view players experience when entering the VR world, so this shape captures that well.
“The design of the PS VR2 headset was also inspired by the look of the PS5 product family. When our design team created the PS5 console, they also had the next-generation VR headset in mind, so you’ll notice some similarities in look The PS5 console has flat edges as it is meant to be displayed on a flat surface, while more emphasis has been placed on adding roundness to the design of the PS VR2 headset as it is meant to have constant human contact, similar to the rounded edges of the DualSense controller and Pulse 3D headset.”
As for the challenges of designing something intended to hang over the front of one’s face, “we paid close attention to the ergonomics of the helmet and performed extensive testing to ensure a comfortable feel for a variety of head sizes. We already had a lot of positive feedback on the ergonomics of the first PS VR headset by carefully balancing the weight of the headset and having a simple, adjustable headband, so we kept the same concept for the PS VR2 headset.” I assume the headband is adjustable by the dial on the back, which is probably linked to a rack inside the case.
New features include a lens adjustment dial so users can better center the lenses based on the actual distance between their eyes, instead of having to deal with a one-size-fits-all setup. A motor has also been added to provide force feedback, but the new headset still sees an overall weight reduction over its predecessor.
Sony’s Yujin Morisawa, who led the design team, talks about one feature in particular:
“When I started working on the design of the PlayStation VR2 headset, one of the areas I wanted to focus on first was the idea of creating a vent in the headset to let air out, similar to vents of the PS5 console that allows airflow. Our engineers came up with this idea as a good way to allow ventilation and prevent the lens from fogging up while players are immersed in their VR games. I have worked on a lot of design concepts to achieve this, and in the final design you can see that there is a small gap between the top and the front surface of the bezel which contains the built in ventilation I’m really proud of the how it went and the positive feedback I’ve received so far. I hope our PlayStation fans agree too, and I can’t wait for them to try it out.”
To be honest, I don’t care much about VR headsets. But I’m very interested to see so much space given to the thoughts and goals of the designers behind the product, even on minor details like the vents. This wasn’t common just ten or twenty years ago – lay people didn’t care – and it makes me optimistic that our society is gradually moving towards a more design-educated society.